Chapter 2 . Awake
” Golden slumber fills your eyes
Smiles awake you when you rise
Sleep pretty darling don’t you cry
And I will sing you a lullaby “
Beatles, Golden Slumbers 1969
It starts with a dream . . .
Granted that word can mean a couple of different things. A dream of doing something or being something in a waking state and then there are the ones that come to you when you’re sleeping.
Some dreams mean something, something big. Depending on how they manage to disturb you, or catapult you into wondering, what on earth was that about? So many are just forgotten and we just move on, trying to navigate our waking state, and we leave the field of dreams where they lie, so we can function.
Then there are the ones that wake us up.
I started to write this tale in screenplay form, so bear with the following cinematic references, though I think it helps paint the picture. The following is how I imagined the movie would open.
It is pre-dawn, the sun is about to rise. The camera spans the horizon, we see that we are in a wheat field on a hill looking over rolling fields of wheat. As the camera faces east the sun is about to rise, but it’s not broken over the horizon yet . The camera turns back towards the hill and zooms in to a patch of wheat that is flattened a bit and it comes up to it and points down and there is a boy, a young boy, who is sleeping. Nothing but his pajama pants and tee shirt, no blanket just curled up in the wheat grass. He wakes up and is clearly astonished and bewildered of where he is. He looks down and sees the folded over wheat, the impression left in the wheat field, of his curled body, of where he slept. He turns completely around in a circle scans the terrain, he can’t see anything but the top of a hills around him.
The camera is following behind him as he walks to the top of the hill, where he looks over the horizon, it is that moment before dawn, the sky is that color blue that is the expectant of sunrise. He knows the sun is about to start peaking up, over the mountains in the distance. He is alone on the top of a mountainous hill. The camera pans and takes in the entire expanse, the sun starts to rise over the edge of the distant horizon. He peers down to his right, and spies a silo and a farm. He sees the distant shape and shadow of a farmer come out of the farmhouse and climb onto a huge harvester tractor with the long spinning scythes. He can’t hear anything yet, it’s quite a distance away, but he can see the smoke spout from the exhaust, the initial puffs of black smoke float away as it starts up, the winnowing arms are up in the retracted position. He can only perceive the shadow of the man operating it, a dark form, no discernible features or color.
The winnowing arms fold down and the reaper lurches into gear, into the field, the scythes spinning and cutting, it’s heading into and up the hill in the direction towards the boy.
The boy sets off towards the tractor and farm, hoping to find answers. He cannot see the tractor anymore because he is in a natural depression of the low part of one of the rolling hills. As he gets up to the next crest, he can see the machine is still heading up the long hill towards him. He can now hear the faint hum of the machine.
The boy’s expression of shock is gone, he’s in the field heading towards the farm he is gonna find out what is going on, where he is and maybe how he got there. As he gets to the top of each crest of the rolling hills, he notices the reaper is not veering at all, it’s still on a direct course, coming straight in his direction. As he trudges to the peaks of several hills, he relaxes a bit, he will find out what is going on. Thank goodness for small favors, at least it reduces how much walking he has to do, it’s coming directly to him, shortening the time to get answers.
As he heads down into the base of the next mini valley, he can’t comprehend what he sees.
The camera now is facing him and he stops walking. We see his face again, he is in shock, his eyes wide and a dumbfounded expression. The camera turns and now we see his perspective. There in the field is his entire family! They are seated at their dining room table in the field, as if it was totally normal. They don’t see him until he comes up to the table.
As the boy is grappling to register the situation , his father looks up and says,
“Greg , there you are, we’ve killed the fatted calf , come, sit down and eat.”
Greg turns, and still astonished, is standing in front of his customary seat, right to the right of Dad’s seat, a seat of distinction, he called it, he decided our seating chart, because I was the oldest and I was his right hand man, and so on, and for various reasons, one being hereditary succession theory, of seating charts going back to the time of kings, and also that he was a righty, and could deliver his best shots at me, it was always a loaded duality.
The idea that with the seat of distinction, there are perks, but it comes with the price of responsibility. Doug was the next in line so he was to his left. He put Lisa, the youngest to my right, so I could help her immediately if need be, from baby seat throughout youth to protect her. Rick across from her, to Doug’s left, and of course my mother was at the other end of the rectangular table.
As I stood in this field of wheat in front of my seat, I looked at my Dad, my stunned and exasperated expression obvious, he looked back at me with an expression of what’s the matter? To him everything was normal. I then looked at Doug, who sits across from me , he looked back at me in like manner, what’s wrong with you? I then cast my gaze to Rick who also looked up at me like ‘what’? the same reaction from my sister, Lisa.
Dad starts serving himself, loading his plate with the mashed potatoes from the bowl on the table . They all are looking at me, and I can see by their faces they are wondering, what’s wrong with Greg.
Dad says slightly pleadingly, “Greg, sit down and eat.”
There is no way I am sitting down with the reaper machine on its way, so I maneuver away from my empty seat around behind where my father is sitting to his left, behind where Doug is sitting.
I get closer to Dad and say,
“Dad do you hear that?“
I was referring to the increasing volume of the reaper machine that was distinctly louder and getting closer every second and just out of sight, the ominous sound of the winnowing blade and the combustion engine of the machine.
He pauses for a second or two, apparently listens and says,
“No, hear what?”
I again am dumbstruck, distressed, It’s definitely louder, it’s coming just behind the ridge.
“Dad , you don’t hear that noise? “
“Greg , what noise ?” Shaking his head no.
I pause, it’s so loud.
“Greg sit down, relax.”
“Dad are you telling me you don’t hear that noise .”
“Greg, what noise, what are you crazy?”
Dad rolls his eyes and shoots the kids a coo coo look and they all laugh, I shoot them all the death stare of the physical punishment I would inflict on them. They sober and stop immediately. At this point the sound is deafening it is right over the next hill definitely heading right for this spot. There is so little time left, the only thing I can come up with is maybe I can at least grab Doug, try to get him out of harms way.
As I pull him and his chair back, I look down at his legs, and notice, at the base of the chair, I see that the wheat was weaved around his legs, kind of like tethering him to the ground.
I look under the table at the rest of my family and all of their legs are likewise held by the wheat like vines, they are all rooted to the ground. They are the harvest!
The sound of the machine is so loud, There is no time left. I almost black out, pause for half a second and my self preservation gene kicks in, If I pass out I too will be cut up by the reaper, I can’t bear to witness it. There seems to be no escape, I assume I start running and screaming to get out of there.
Next thing I know, everything goes black. And I am coming to in our hallway. I hear my mom say to my father from in their bedroom their door is half opened.
“Dick , Greg is having a nightmare .”
As my father is getting out of his slumber he asks her,
“Should I wake him.”
At that moment I was in two places at once, I was in the field and yet also in the hallway outside my parents door. I could hear my parents statements, I was in two states of consciousness, I was in the dream world, and yet in the hall simultaneously. It was a weird sensation, otherworldly.
Next thing I know, my Dad has a hold of both my arms and is shaking me awake.
“Greg, you had a bad dream.”
I am back fully in the hallway.
“Are you awake.”
I nod my head, affirmatively. It’s early morning or late at night, it’s dark outside. Dad steps into the bathroom turns on the light and looks at himself in the mirror, getting the salt out of his eyes with water, I head to the john and start peeing, it’s a prolonged one.
“Greg I have a question for you, and you’ve got to answer me honestly.”
I’m wondering what it could be, since he never had to presuppose before, he would just ask and expect the truth, to ask to answer honestly was odd, lying to my Dad, to his face, was a risky business, the wrath he semi regularly incurred physically and mentally was grueling and terrifying. We learned early as kids to just tell it like it is, or else. He believed in not sparing the rod.
I finish peeing, and come back to the sink area, Dad is looking at me in the mirror. He says again, but now he is looking me in the eyes, and not using the reflection of the mirror.
“You have to answer me honestly, you have to tell me the truth, okay ?”
I never had to lie to my folks before it was always an open, honest, the truth will set you free type of forum my father instilled in the house, if you screwed up, or anything, you take the punishment and move on, what could he possibly want to know. I am ready for the big question, and answer,
He looks at me hard and seriously, “Greg are you doing drugs or anything?”
I paused for an instant, because of the or anything part, what does or could ‘anything’ include ? And I search my soul and state.
” Not yet Dad, I’m only 11.”
After he asked the question he went back to the mirror looking at me to see if he could detect in my body language or response, any deception.
My answer shocked him a bit, and he gathered himself. The answer shocked me, too, because I immediately noticed that it didn’t technically come from my thinking mind, it dropped in to the base of my neck and just came out. It came from somewhere else.
I was in 6th grade, it was 1971, the drug culture was starting to bloom in pop culture, but I was sheltered in a Catholic School, I didn’t have any exposure to drugs, and didn’t know anyone who was doing them, and the ‘not yet’ part was weird, who knows, at that point in time I didn’t have any idea, that I would later in life find the shadow world in waking states through psychotropic drugs that would connect to a hidden dreamworld, my statement turned out to be accurate, honest and prescient, all at once.
As my Dad registered my words, he quickly adapted hid his shock and I could tell he came up with an idea, I could see he had one of those lightbulb moments, when he came up with a solution, on the spot, he would glow and get excited, to state his revelation, his forefinger would go up and he would proclaim the truth. He found an answer.
“Greg, if you go to the bathroom before you go to sleep, you won’t have those nightmares anymore, your only 60-65 lbs, what happens is that, the fluids and juices build up inside of you and put pressure on your system, and they are seeking a release, for a way out, and so that’s why you have the bad dreams.”
“You think so Dad ?”
“Yes absolutely, if you go to the john before you go to bed you won’t have them anymore.”
I had that same dream five or six times over the next year. Dad built four bedrooms downstairs in our half basement for us four kids, and I would wake up running down that hallway, and I would be in that halfway state of field and hall, I’d hear Doug and Rick arguing ,“You take him tonight, I took him last time.” I wouldn’t be able to sleep after the nightmare anyway, I would really just rest my body with my eyes closed, shaken from the vision of impending doom for my family, and wondering what and why was this happening to me. They would take turns and I would bunk with them.
It was really overwhelming, at points during the dream I would think, I’m dreaming maybe I can change the way the dream unfolds, or wake myself up, but I wasn’t able to, I had to relive it. I’d find myself in that field, and all I could do was experience it, so it had to sink in. If I had the dream once I probably would have forgotten it. But for some reason the powers that be gave me this disturbing, solitary vision.
“Once there was a way to get back homeward ,
Once there was a way to get back home .
Sleep pretty darling do not cry
And I will sing you a lullaby. “
Featured Art: Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper